Santa Maria College, Perth

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Santa Maria College
Santa Maria College crest. Source: (Santa Maria College website)
Attadale, WA
Australia Australia
Type Independent, Single-sex, Day and Boarding
Motto Latin: Soli Deo Gloria
("For the Glory of God")
Denomination Roman Catholic, Sisters of Mercy
Established 1938
Sister school Aquinas College, Perth
Principal Ian Elder
Staff ~180[1]
Enrolment ~1300 (5–12)[2]
Colour(s) Green, Red and White             

Santa Maria College is a Roman Catholic boarding and day school for girls, situated in Attadale, a southern suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

Established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1938, the school currently caters for approximately 1300 students from Years 5 to 12, including 150 boarders.[2]

The college is affiliated with the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia (AHISA),[3] the Australian Boarding Schools' Association (ABSA),[2] the Alliance of Girls' Schools Australasia (AGSA) and the Independent Girls Schools Sports Association (IGSSA).

Santa Maria College in 2015

Santa Maria's Brother school is Aquinas College located in Salter Point.


The College's Mercy heritage and history goes back to the arrival of seven Sisters of Mercy in Perth in 1846. They were led by Mother Ursula Frayne and proved themselves to be resourceful, resilient and strong women.

The Sisters opened their first school on St George's Terrace in February 1846. As enrolments increased, school buildings, including a boarding school, were built in the grounds of the present Mercedes College. As the demand for boarding places increased from country families, the Mercy Superior at the time, Mother Brigid McDonald, and her Council resolved to build a new ladies' college for boarding and day students in the bush land in Attadale. Santa Maria College opened its doors in 1938. The founding principal was Sr. Mary Bertrand Corbett.

The post-war period brought with it a rapid expansion in residential development around the College. As a result, there was a growth in student numbers and the student population at Santa Maria College changed from primarily boarders to a majority of day students.

Today Santa Maria College is a community of 1300 students from Years 5 to 12. It enjoys beautiful, modern facilities and leads in the areas of technology and innovative education. The current principal is Mr Ian Elder.


Mercy Education Limited (Mercy Education) is the delegated authority, which oversees the operation of the Education ministry of the Institute of Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

Through its Board of Directors, Mercy Education is responsible for the governance and operation of eleven Mercy Sponsored Colleges owned by ISMAPNG, including Santa Maria College. Mercy Education is the Employer of the Principal and staff of twelve Mercy Colleges.


Santa Maria College is a Catholic Education Office affiliated education provider. It is also affiliated with the Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia.

Santa Maria College is a member of the Independent Girls Schools Sporting Association


Period Details
1937 – 1960 Sr Bertrand Corbett
1961 – 1966 Sr Stephanie Horne
1967 – 1970 Sr Martha Hayward
1971 – 1975 Sr Consilli Flynn
1976 – 1979 Sr Perpetua della Marta
1980 – 1989 Sr Sheila Sawle
1989 – 2000 Mr Frank Owen
2000 – 2008 Mrs Anne Pitos
2009 – 2010 Mr Greg Clune
2010 – present Mr Ian Elder
Sr Bertrund Corbett


Santa Maria College has a culture of innovation. It is recognized as employing innovative people, programs and processes. In August 2015 Santa Maria College was listed by The Educator magazine as one of the nation's leading innovators in education.

Academic Achievement[edit]

Santa Maria College has a history of academic excellence. It often ranks among the top performing schools in Western Australia. In 2014 it was ranked 8th in the Western Australian Certificate of Education Examinations. It achieved 100% graduation.

The College is also one of the leading schools in the area of ACCESS education. It is unique in offering Certificate 3 and 4 VET qualifications. VET certificates are presented to those students who have achieved nationally recognised qualifications through a Registered Training Organisation during Year 12.


Santa Maria College has a robust, secure network of international standard. A one on one laptop program and campus-wide wi-fi make Santa Maria College an outstanding environment for collaborative learning and technology-rich curriculum.


  • One-on-one laptop program
  • Cisco network
  • Latest high-speed wi-fi access
  • 400Mb broadband internet access
  • Display technologies in all classrooms
  • High level software such as Adobe Creative Cloud
  • Bring your own devices are allowed on the network for educational purposes.

House system[edit]

Santa Maria College, as with most Australian schools, utilises a House system. Students are divided into eight Houses, for the purpose of morning meetings in House groups and Homerooms, and intra-school competition. The Houses are named after notable figures in the Sisters of Mercy's heritage in Western Australia. Dillon, de la Hoyde, Frayne, Kelly, O'Donnell and O'Reilly are named after six of the Sisters who journeyed to Western Australia from Ireland and set up the first Catholic High School in the state - Victoria Square School, now known as Mercedes College. In 2007, two new houses were added - Corbett, named after the school's first Principal, Sr Bertrand Corbett, and Byrne.

Each House competes to earn points towards the "McAuley Shield", through various interhouse events, including: Swimming, Athletics, Cross Country, Volleyball, Soccer, Debating and Public Speaking. In 2007, the interhouse events were expanded to include an Arts Festival after the lobbying of several students wishing for more events which weren't sports-orientated to be included in the McAuley Shield competition. The Arts Festival required each House to prepare a short play and showcase their House's acting abilities. As of 2013 this festival has been replaced by a theatresports competition.


The Boarding Community is home to 150 girls, predominantly from rural WA. The community is divided into four individual Houses, which allows for a close knit family atmosphere. The two Housemothers assigned to each house develop very strong relationships with the girls.


The Santa Maria Uniform consists of a green and white dress worn during summer, worn with a white socks and black leather shoes. A formal winter uniform is also required which consists of black stockings instead of socks, a green red and white striped tie, school blazer, green jumper and a green red and white tartan skirt.

Notable alumnae[edit]

Helen Adamson (Class of 1943)

Helen Adamson (1927 - 2010) was a student at Santa Maria College from 1940 – 1943 (1944?), where she completed her secondary schooling. Ms Adamson then trained as a nurse at both PMH and RPH and also worked for some time at the Hollywood repatriation Hospital. Following this she undertook midwifery training in Victoria. She was a theatre sister in for an ENT specialist in Victoria and then worked with the Victorian Public Health Department.

Ms Adamson joined the Australian Army as a nurse (Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps) in 1959 and worked in a variety of postings both in Australia and overseas in Malaya. Rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, she was appointed Matron in Chief in 1980 and also served as Director of Nursing Services Army.

Colonel Adamson was awarded the Royal Red Cross in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in 1981 and retired from her career in February 1984.

Dorothy Clarke (Class of 1938)

Dorothy Clarke (1922 – 1973) was a foundation student at Santa Maria College in 1938 where she completed her Leaving Certificate. A nursing career in paediatrics followed, culminating in Ms Clarke becoming Principal Nurse Educator at Princess Margaret Hospital.

The Professional Development Scholarship granted annually by the Australian College of Children and Young People's Nurses (ACCPYN) was officially renamed The Dorothy Clarke Scholarship in 2010 to ensure the significant contribution that Dorothy made to paediatric nursing education is remembered.

Geraldine Doogue OA (Class of 1968)

Geraldine Doogue completed her entire school education at Santa Maria College, commencing in year 1 in 1956 and completing her Leaving and Matriculation in 1968. Obtaining a Bachelor of Arts from UWA, Ms Doogue then undertook a cadetship in journalism at The West Australian and has become a successful and respected journalist, broadcaster and author.

Ms Doogue has been the recipient of two Penguin awards for excellence in broadcasting, a United Nations Media Peace Prize, a Churchill Fellowship and in 2003 was awarded an Officer in the Order of Australia.

Annette Goerke (née Parkes, Class of 1956)

Annette Goerke completed her secondary school education at Santa Maria College in 1956 and was then appointed organist at St Mary's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Perth, Western Australia at the age of 17. After 18 years as Cathedral Organist, she was appointed Director of Music assuming responsibility for the choir in addition to playing duties and continued with this dual role for a further 25 years.

Mrs Goerke is a graduate of the UWA School of Music and is also currently the University Organist and has also appeared with the West Australia Symphony Orchestra. She has been the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship for advanced organ studies in Paris and was awarded the Papal award "Crucem Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice" for her services to St Mary's Cathedral. Mrs Goerke was awarded the UWA Chancellor's Medal in 2004 for outstanding contribution to the University.

Carmen Lawrence (Class of 1964)

Dr Carmen Lawrence was one of 6 Lawrence sisters to be educated at Santa Maria College, completing her Leaving and Matriculation in 1964 and gaining a General Exhibition for Academic Achievement and a Special Subject Exhibition in Economics. She was also Head Girl at the College in 1964.

Dr Lawrence graduated from UWA in 1968 as a Bachelor of Psychology with First Class Honours. After an early career in academia and research, Dr Lawrence became the first female Premier of Western Australia in 1990 (and the first female premier of any state in Australia). Following this Dr Lawrence moved to federal politics and held the positions of Minister for Human Services and Health and Minister assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women in the Keating government. She was also on the opposition Front Bench for several years between 1996 and 2001, resigning in protest against the Labor Party's support of detention of asylum seekers.

Retiring from politics in 2007, Dr Lawrence is currently Professorial Fellow in the Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Western Australia.

Along with Halina Szunejko (Class of 1954), Dr Lawrence was one of two former Santa Maria students inducted as one of the first 100 in the Western Australian Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Marie Mahood (nee Healy, Class of 1943)

Marie Mahood (1926 – 2009) attended Santa Maria College from 1939 until 1943 when she successfully completed her Leaving and Matriculation. She then worked at a Western Australian newspaper (unknown?) and was encouraged by the editor to seek a bursary at UWA which she did, and became the editor of the University newspaper. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts, she joined The West Australian as a journalist and travelled to the North of Australia where she made a life with her husband who was a stockman.

Together they built up the cattle station Mongrel Downs in the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory and later a station in central Queensland, which she continued to work after her husband's death in a helicopter accident. In earlier years they lived and worked in remote communities where Mrs Mahood also established and taught in a number of schools, as well as teaching in Alice Springs.

Mrs Mahood is the author of 12 books (novels, memoirs, history and children's fiction). The titles include Icing on the Damper; A Bunch of Strays; The Nut Milk Chocolate gang.

Halina Szunejko OAM (née Czekalowska, class of 1954)

Halina Szunejko (née Czekalowska) came to Santa Maria College in 1950 aged as a polish Refugee, having spent 8 years in a refugee Camp in east Africa. Despite little English and a difficult past, Halina and three other polish refugees settled into life at Santa Maria very well. Halina studied hard and having completed her Leaving Certificate went on to Claremont Teachers College.

A 43-year career in teaching followed, culminating in Principalships of 2 major metropolitan Senior High Schools. Mrs Szunejko continued throughout her career to be an activist in the Polish community in Australia. She was president of the West Australian Association of Polish Women and organised welfare programs. She was teacher-in-charge of the Polish Ethnic School in the 1990s and a member of the Migrant Settlement Committee and the Ethnic Schools' Association, Western Australia.

In 1979 she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit from the Polish Government in exile for her services to the Polish community. In 1989 she received the Medal of the Order of Australia for her services to education and the Polish community. In 1993 the new democratic government of the Republic of Poland honoured her as a Member of the Order of Polonia Restituta.

Along with Dr Carmen Lawrence (class of 1964) Halina Szunejko was inducted as one of the first 100 in the Western Australian Women's Hall of Fame in 2011.

Irene McCormack RSJ (Class of 1954)

Sr Irene McCormack RSJ (1938 – 1991), was a boarding student at Santa Maria College from 1953 – 1954 where she completed her secondary schooling.

Joining the Sisters of St. Joseph after leaving Santa Maria, Sr Irene spent many years teaching in schools in country areas. After 30 years of teaching in Australian schools Sr Irene made the decision that she wanted to serve the poor and arrived in Peru in 1987 for missionary work. Despite knowing the inherent risks of ministering in such a troubled region, Sr Irene continued her ministry of providing library facilities to poor children, who had no chance of obtaining books to aid in their school homework. She also trained extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, as well as visiting the parishioners in outlying districts and distributing Caritas emergency packages.

Sr Irene was executed by the Shining Path Guerrilla group on 21 May 1991.

Prue-Anne Reynalds (Class of 1974)

Prue Reynalds (1957-2006) was a student at Santa Maria from 1970 to 1974 where she completed her secondary schooling. Ms Reynalds had been totally blind since the age of 1, but was a talented musician and sportswoman despite this disability.

In 1974 Ms Reynalds represented the College in Rowing. She also represented Australia in the Paralympic cycling team 1984 and 1992.

In 1980 she was named as one of 5 Australian Jaycees Outstanding Young Australians for WA for voluntary service and personal development. At that time Ms Reynalds was a social worker with the Department for Community Welfare.

Rose McAleer AM (class of 1947)

Miss McAleer completed her schooling at Santa Maria College after boarding at the College for 1940 – 1947. Upon matriculating from school she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship and obtained a Bachelor of Science from UWA, majoring in Botany. Later in her career she moved into medical Mycology and founded the medical Mycology section at Sate health Laboratories.

Miss McAleer has received several awards and fellowships in the fields of Pathology, Microbiology and Medical and Veterinary Mycology, including the Distinguished Mycologist Award from the Australian and New Zealand Association for Microbiology and was made an Honorary Fellow with the Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia. In 1996 Miss McAleer was also awarded the Member of the Order of Australia.

Ailsa Piper (Class of 1976)

Ms Piper attended Santa Maria College from 1972 – 1976 and was head Girl in 1976. She also appeared in several major school productions during those years.

As an actor, Ms Piper has appeared in both stage and television productions and is best known for three years in the long-running Neighbours series.

Ms Piper is also a published writer and has written for ABC children's radio, for the theatre and for The Age, The Australian, Eureka Street, and online journals. In 2000 she was the co-winner of the Patrick White Playwrights' Award for her play, Small Mercies. Her first book Sinning Across Spain was published in 2012, and Ms Piper has 5 times been a judge for the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.

Robyn Mary Quin

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Teaching and Learning) at the Curtin University of Technology[7]

Old Girls Olympians

· Lucy Chaffer (Class of 2000): 2014 Winter Olympics (skeleton)

· Sue Palfreyman (née James, Class of 1969: 1980 Olympics (rowing)

· Prue-Anne Reynalds (Class of 1974): 1984 and 1992 Paralympics (cycling)

· Ashleigh Nelson (Class of 2004): 2012 Olympics (hockey) Commonwealth Games Gold Medal Delhi 2010.

· Lisa Russ (née Oldenhof, Class 1996): 2004 and 2008 Olympics Kayak

Popular Culture

  • Judith Lucy – Stand-up comedian, radio presenter and actress, starring in films such as Crackerjack and Bad Egg
  • Belinda-Lee Reid (vocals, guitar), Jaclyn Pearson (drums), Jessica Bennett (lead guitar) and Micaela Slayford (vocals, bass) formed the band Exteria in 1996. They entered their song "Aloha Hand" into the West Australian Music Industry Awards and won. They later changed their name to Lash and in 2001 released their well known song "Take Me Away" which was covered in the 2003 remake of Freaky Friday.
  • Emma Booth - Model and actress. Booth has won ACCTA and Logie awards for her work in film and television. She is best known for her roles in Cloudstreet, Underbelly: The Golden Mile, Clubland and Glitch


  1. ^ Santa Maria College- About (accessed:10-06-2007)
  2. ^ a b c "Santa Maria College". Schools. Australian Boarding Schools' Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2008-01-03. 
  3. ^ "AHISA Schools: Western Australia". Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia. April 2007. Archived from the original on 2007-08-29. Retrieved 2007-09-11. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 32°01′08″S 115°47′49″E / 32.019°S 115.797°E / -32.019; 115.797